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French or Foe?
(Second Edition, 1998)

Reviewed by Basil Rouskas, President
Basil Rouskas Associates, Inc.

A very useful book in helping the reader understand the essence of being French. It is written with the primary purpose of helping the US businessperson and her / his family make the French assignment a success. There is a section addressing French perceptions while living and working here in the US, but that is a definite footnote, a second thought rather than the main purpose of the book.

The book has a well-balanced approach between being journalistic and theoretic: It gives enough historical background, developments of ideas so that the idiosyncrasies of the French life and work style are seen connected in a wider context. Yet, it stays well within the boundaries of a book which does not take itself too seriously and becoming too pedantic and academic. There is a fine balance between culture -- its origin and manifestation -- and descriptions of daily events and stories.

The first chapter with its six codes (Don't smile, Flirt, Use of the ten magic words, add Monsieur or Madame to Hello, Shake hands and Be aware of door sequencing protocols) is terrific in curing, or preventing, the shock the first time visitor to France.

Subsequent chapters deal with differences in perception of space and time, relations with neighbors, attitudes towards animals in stores, customer service in the large and small establishment. Of particular importance are the chapters explaining the importance of Education, and particularly Mathematics, its impact on the way the family raises and educates children. It helps the American reader understand the meaning of being a bureaucrat in the hierarchical public administration system and the stratification of people based on their academic credentials (especially those who have the genius -- and the stomach -- to compete for them in years of excruciatingly hard studies at the Grandes Ecoles.)

The transition from defining the educational system's importance on the French life and its translation to ways of doing business in that country is very effective. The distinctions between the American approach - pragmatic, experimental, action oriented, revisable based on success - vs. the French one - methodical, intellectual, slow, and debated ad infinitum - are articulated with mastery. A book, with the French as the subject, could not be complete without the subjects of food, wine, and men-women relations. Yes, these are also addressed with wit, lightheartedness and journalistic curiosity.

A book that is a must for business people doing business with the French or wanting to understand the behavior of French citizens here in the US. It is an excellent resource for consultants who having not lived in France are called to work with French professionals and / or executives and their teams.

Readers' Comments:
Readers' comments about French or Foe? French or Foe? Readers' comments about Savoir Flair! Savoir-Flair!

Media Reviews in English:
French or Foe?   Savoir Flair! media reviews Savoir-Flair!   Love a la Francaise media reviews Love à la Française  

Media Reviews in French:
French or Foe? media reviews in French French or Foe?

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French illustration by: Géraldine Guinard